Proof that adding ‘googly eyes’ to your next engineering design will improve customer satisfaction is here. In Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States, engineers have added eyes to a solar powered, trash-eating water wheel. They have subsequently given it a name as well: Mr Trash Wheel.


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Image Credit: CBS News Baltimore


The creators of Mr Trash Wheel explain how it works on their website: “The river’s current provides power to turn the water wheel, which lifts trash and debris from the water and deposits it into a dumpster barge. When there isn’t enough water current, a solar panel array provides additional power to keep the machine running. When the dumpster is full, it’s towed away by boat, and a new dumpster is put in place. Voila!”


Since the beginning of the water wheel’s operation in 2014, it has collected and cleared 550 tons of trash from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It collects 38,000 lbs of garbage a day.

The engineer behind the trash wheel, John Kellet, says that the water wheel could contribute to lowering the amount of plastic that is finding its way into the ocean.


Natural order of things

Using the natural order of things, Mr Trash Wheel uses the natural river currents to funnel trash toward its gaping mouth. This is something that engineers are trying to harness and use to their benefit around the world. An organization leading the charge of cleaning up the plastic in the ocean, with natural ocean currents, is a company named the Ocean Cleanup Project. Read more about them here.


The natural order of things is unfortunately what causes the garbage problem to begin with. Kellet laments that when it rains in Baltimore, the rain water transports litter into the watershed that then feeds the litter into the river - and then into the sea. This is an issue that all coastal regions in the world face today.


Engineers + social media = fun

One of the novel approaches to spreading awareness of their project was first to give the contraption its own name. Fast forward a couple years, and now, it even has its own beer. Mr Trash Wheel’s Lost Python Ale was coined after the engineers found a West African ball python in the trash wheel. The engineers had 15,000 cans brewed. 25% of the proceeds will go to keeping Mr Trash Wheel running.

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A social media account is also establishing a social presence for the character that is Mr Trash Wheel, and adds to his likeability and his human likeness. Follow him on Twitter for more updates: @MrTrashWheel


Furthermore, getting children excited through the character, teaches environmental responsibility, and it could spur them on to become future engineers who develop technologies that might benefit the planet. Just like Mr Trash Wheel!



Works Cited

"Mr. Trash Wheel Now Has His Own Beer, Proceeds Will Help Clean The Harbor." CBS Baltimore. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

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